The absolute best gifts to get loved ones for the holidays


'Tis the season for giving.
'Tis the season for giving.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

If you’re anything like us, procrastination is one of the biggest hallmarks of the holidays. We’re here to help with our gift guide liveblog, which will be updated from now until Santa starts dropping through chimneys.

Whether you’re looking for something for a friend, spouse, significant other or just your dog, we’ve got a little something for everyone. Snap up these great gift ideas now — so you can get back to procrastinating.

December 22, 2015 2:32 pm PDT Buster Hein

Google Chromecast

Need a last minute stocking stuffer for the tech lover in your life? Google’s Chromecast is a pretty great alternative to Apple TV, and best of all, it’s cheap as hell. Shoppers can currently scoop up a Chromecast for $30, which includes a $20 giftcard to the Google Play Store so you can buy some of your favorite movies and TV shows to stream on Christmas Day.

Price: $30
Buy From: Best Buy

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December 14, 2015 11:38 am PDT Buster Hein

Amazon Echo

Even though its not made by Apple, we’re in love with the Echo speaker from Amazon. It does a lot more than just play music, but it also does that really well. If you’re in the mood for some oldies, just say “Play Frank Sinatra” and the speaker will start caressing your ears with Frankie’s classics.

Other features include the ability to order items from Amazon and retreive news, traffic, weather reports, and sports scores. It can also control your WeMo, Philips Hue Lights, Samsung SmartThings and other connected devices. Best of all, it keeps getting smarter. Amazon has added 95 new features to the little speaker since it launched, making it a no-brainer for Prime members.

Price: $179.99

Buy from: Amazon

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December 12, 2015 10:33 am PDT Buster Hein

Zagg Pocket Keyboard

You don’t need to own an iPad Pro to get work done on your tablet. The Zagg Pocket Keyboard is for anyone desperate to carry the bare minimum. Well, the bare minimum would be to skip the keyboard altogether, but if you are looking for the convenience of an external keyboard without the hassle of carrying one, look no further.

This diminutive package folds up into a case about the size of a fancy chopstick box and charges with a mini USB cable. (It’s got pretty impressive battery life, too.) Syncing it via Bluetooth is easy. It’s not a full-size keyboard by any stretch of the imagination, but after a short adjustment period we found it was easy enough to crank out blog posts on the little keyboard while riding on the ferry.

Price: $69.99

Buy from: Amazon

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December 12, 2015 10:29 am PDT Buster Hein

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

The iPad is a great tablet for games, movies, music, and other apps, but the reading experience on it isn’t the best. That award goes to the new Amazon Kindle Paperwhite that is perfect for bookworms.

The Paperwhite is an excellent e-reader. And if you don’t mind being mostly tied to the great Amazon in the sky, don’t hesitate to add another device to your life. The size is perfect for travel, couch and bedtime reading. And the new higher-resolution grayscale display delivers just enough adjustability to make the reading experience excellent.

Price: $119.99

Buy from: Amazon

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December 12, 2015 10:20 am PDT Buster Hein

Spy Optics Screw Shades

With its Screw series of shades, Spy found the sweet spot where you get what you need while sweating your ass off without looking like an ass when standing in line at the coffee shop. The Screw sunglasses keep you fog-free, offer excellent optics, and use rubber compound at the nose and ears for excellent grip. They also hold up surprisingly well.

If you’re looking for that next pair of sports shades, you might well want to get screwed. With a myriad of color options, Spy Optics Screw line has something for everyone.

Price: $140 to $190 list, depending on style

Buy From: Amazon

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December 12, 2015 10:11 am PDT Buster Hein

Moment Wide Angle Lens for iPhone

Got an Instagrammer in your life that’s always trying to snap perfect pics? The Moment Lens will take their photos to the next level with its wide angle that can capture 2x more landscape without bending images.

The company also sells a telephoto lens that attaches to the same mounting plate as the wide angle. My favorite feature about these lens is that you can still use most cases — like the Apple iPhone 6s case — and use the Moment Lens too, which isn’t true of most other iPhone lens systems.

Price: $100

Buy From: Moment

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December 12, 2015 10:04 am PDT Buster Hein

Apple Watch Sport

Apple’s wearable is one of the hottest gadget gifts of the season and for good reason. The Apple Watch is the perfect companion for iPhone owners by offering glance-able notifications, Apple Pay, fitness tracking, health sensors, Digital Touch, and more. It’s also a great time to buy one. Best Buy is offering $100 off on all models, making the Apple Watch Sport an even more attractive gift.

Price: $249

Buy From: Best Buy

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December 12, 2015 9:54 am PDT Buster Hein

GoBuddy+ Lightning Cable+Bottle opener

Finding a spare Lightning cable when your iPhone battery is on its last legs can be a pain, which makes the GoBuddy Plus the perfect stocking stuffer for friends. For only $10, not only do you get a Lightning to USB cable that can clip onto anything. It also packs a bottle opener that will definitely come in handy during the holidays and beyond.

Price: $10

Buy From: Kanex

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December 12, 2015 9:43 am PDT Buster Hein

Tesla iPhone 6s leather case

You don’t have to drop a ton of money to own something from Tesla anymore. The company announced its cheapest product ever just in time for the holidays: iPhone cases made out of leftover seat leather.

For $45 Tesla will wrap your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus in black leather. There’s a second case for $50 that adds credit card slots to the back. And if you live somewhere so cold that leather gloves are a necessity, Telsa’s got a touch screen friendly pair $100 that’ll match the case.

Price: $45

Buy From: Tesla

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December 4, 2015 12:25 pm PDT Rob LeFebvre

PlayStation 4 video game console

If you’re not the kind of person who already owns all three next-gen video game consoles, you might be wondering which one to get for your family (or yourself) this year.Video games are a huge industry for a reason – they’ve come a long way since the pixel-based arcade games of yore, with immersive storylines, photorealistic visuals, and cinematic scores.

If you have to pick just one, go with the PlayStation 4: it’s the clear winner among gamers this generation around with its powerful graphics processing, fantastic ecosystem of games both old and new, and some brilliant exclusive games you won’t get on XBox One, like Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us. It’s also got the best handheld integration on the market, letting the PlayStation Vita run a ton of big-screen games on the go with its second-screen functionality.

Plus, the PS4 is the place to go if you like quirky, offbeat experiences and indie games, with triple-A titles like Little Big Planet and gems from small teams of developers, like Monsters & Monocles.

Price: $349

Buy From: Amazon

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December 4, 2015 10:47 am PDT Buster Hein


The new MacBook is the most impressive laptop we’ve ever seen. It’s unbelievably thin and light. The battery lasts all day. The display is absolutely gorgeous. It’s more than capable of handling all the work you throw at it. And it comes in gold. What more could you want from a MacBook?

Price: $1,269.00

Buy From: Amazon

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December 4, 2015 10:19 am PDT Buster Hein

DJI Phantom 3 Pro

You could drop a couple thousand dollars buying a decent 4K drone this Christmas, but you should just go with DJI’s new Phantom 3 drone. It’s pretty much the gold standard when it comes to affordable quadrocopters. The Phantom 3 packs a 4K video camera with a 3-axis gimbal allowing you to get the smoothest, sexiest video footage possible. It also includes a Vision Positioning system for stable flight indoors, and you can use the accompanying DJ Pilot app for iOS to use your iPhone or iPad as a viewfinder.

Price: $1,191.65

Buy From: Amazon

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December 4, 2015 10:09 am PDT Buster Hein

Guitar Hero Live

Sure, you could get your loved one a real guitar so they could learn how to play an instrument, but that’s not nearly as fun as pretending you’re already a rockstar with unbelievable shredding skills. The new Guitar Hero game puts you on a real stage with real people giving real reactions as your play. It’s the most immersive version of the game yet, and it also works with iOS so you can play it on your iPad or gaming console.

Price: $69

Buy From: Amazon

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December 1, 2015 10:31 am PDT Buster Hein

iPad Mini 4

The iPad Pro has been hogging all the headlines lately, but the iPad mini 4 is secretly the best all-around tablet Apple’s ever made. While the size of its screen won’t blow you away, the perfection of it might. The folks at DisplayMate say it has the best LCD screen of any tablet ever made, and now that it packs all the same hardware features as the iPad Air 2, it’s a legitimately powerful little tablet.

It’s unbelievably light and portable. Best of all, buying one won’t break your bank account, even if you upgrade to the hefty 128GB storage option.

Price: $388

Buy From: Amazon

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December 1, 2015 9:39 am PDT Buster Hein

Ancho Reyes Ancho Chile Liqueur

Usually when your bartender talks up a hot new drink, he’s not referring to actual heat. But that’s what you get when you add a half-jigger of Ancho Reyes liqueur to a recipe: restrained heat, plus subtle sweetness and exotic spices that will add an unforgettable dimension to your cocktail.

We got our first taste of this outstanding liqueur made with ancho chiles (the dried version of poblano peppers) during this year’s International CES. We ordered a pair of American Gothic cocktails, a spicy concoction that expertly blends Woodford Reserve bourbon with Ancho Reyes, Amaro Meletti, chocolate mole bitters and house-made spiced chai-masala tea syrup. The drink was like a shining beacon of elegance and hope rising above CES’s inevitable sea of free booze.

It cost a little north of $30, but a little goes a long way, and it’s a genius way to heat up your next cocktail party. Plus: That old-school bottle looks sweet on your liquor shelf.

Buy from: WineWise

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November 30, 2015 9:28 am PDT Buster Hein

Faraday Porteur e-bike

Elegant and powerful, the Faraday Porteur is a great gift idea this holiday season for anyone who wants a true biking experience without sweating. The Faraday Porteur blurs the lines between “electric” and “bicycle,” with a great design that also comes with enough power to get your up monstrous hills.

The bike comes with an 8-speed Shimano Alfine internally geared hub for crisp, low-maintenance shifting. It also uses a greaseless, silent, and maintenance-free carbon belt drive instead of a nasty chain.

Price: $2,799
Buy From: Faraday

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November 30, 2015 9:16 am PDT Buster Hein

Rudy Jersey from Kitsbow

Kitsbow’s Rudy Jersey is not like most other mountain bike kit — it is both functional and stylish. Stylish enough, in fact, to be worn casually off the bike. But don’t let the great looks fool you: There is plenty of function cooked into Kitsbow’s design.

The jersey is done in a merino wool and polyester blend, has ventilation at the shoulders, and comes with a built-in eyeglass cloth in the pocket. I might not look like you’ll be ready for the gnar at the trailhead, but the sophisticated Kitsbow kit, which included the excellent Haskell Short ($165), will keep you comfortable and take all the abuse you can muster on the trial.

Price: $195
Buy from: Kitsbow

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November 25, 2015 11:19 am PDT Buster Hein

Nixon Star Wars Boba Fett backpack

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is going to rock movie theaters this December, which means you can get a nerd pretty much anything Star Wars related and you’ll make their holiday. You’d be hard pressed to do worse than gifting this Boba Fett A-10 backpack from Nixon.

If Boba Fett traded his jetpack for a backpack, it’d look like this. The top-loading backpack is made of distressed PU coated canvas and packs plenty of pockets for all your gadgets and gizmos. There are even compression pockets on the outside for your water bottle and accessories. Total price: $175.

Buy From: Nixon

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November 25, 2015 9:46 am PDT Buster Hein

Sonos Play:5 speaker

The flagship speaker from Sonos has been revamped, redesigned and relaunched. The result is awesome.Sonos is a truly modern music system. It’s a multi-speaker, multi-room system that beams tunes wirelessly from a wide range of online sources, from an iTunes library to Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn or Tidal, plus dozens of others. It’s dead-easy to set up and use. There are no wires.The new Play:5 is a big, beefy speaker that sounds absolutely wonderful. It’s available in stores today, and although it’s not cheap, I’d recommend you go out and get one. Or two. Stereo is even better.

Buy from: Amazon

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November 23, 2015 1:09 pm PDT Buster Hein

Beats solo2 wireless

Wireless headphones are all the rage this Christmas. Even my hinted that she’s hoping Santa drops her a pair. The problem with most wireless headphones is they look super dorky. The Beats solo2 breaks that trendy with its slimmer body that also collapses down into a travel-friendly package. We’re partial to the gold model, but there’s tons of different colors to choose from. You can get it from the Apple Store directly for $299, but Amazon is currently selling them for $219.

Price: $219 – $239 (depending on color)

Buy from: Amazon

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November 23, 2015 1:03 pm PDT Buster Hein

Leaf, by Bellabeat

Not everyone wants a super-nerdy Apple Watch or Fitbit dangling on their wrists at all times. Bellbeat’s Leaf wearable provides a more fashionable and low-key option for tracking fitness metrics like your breathing, sleep, activity, ovulation cycles and smart alarms that wake you at the optimal time.

It works with both iPhone and Android, and at only $200, isn’t nearly as expensive as some other options.

Buy from: Amazon

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November 23, 2015 12:53 pm PDT Buster Hein

GoPro Hero4 Session

For the adrenaline junkies and adventurer addicts in your life, the GoPro Hero4 is the perfect stocking stuffer. It’s the smallest and lightest GoPro ever made, making it more versatile than ever for catching all your crazy footage. It films video at resolutions up to 1440p 30fps, and shoots 8MP video, and it’s on sale at Amazon for only $239, down from it’s $300 price tag.

Buy from: Amazon

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November 23, 2015 10:19 am PDT Buster Hein

Philips Hue 2.0

Light up someone’s Christmas by getting them Philips’ Hue 2.0 starter kit. It comes with three Hue bulbs and a hub, which allows you to control the color of your lights with the accompanying iOS app. The new generation unit also has features HomeKit integration so you can create different lighting scenes and then use Siri to switch to your preferred color preferences. The bulbs will bring a little taste of the future to your loved one’s dumb home, and they only cost $199.99.

Buy from: Amazon

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November 20, 2015 2:13 pm PDT Buster Hein

Timbuk2 Muttmover dog backpack

You and your dog will love Timbuk2’s Muttmover dog backpack. It’s a medium-size backpack, that’s easy to sling over your shoulder. It’s more compact and manageable than a duffel, plus there’s a carrying handle on top. The front panel zips open completely, making it easy for your dog to step inside. The liner is made of a slick tarpaulin material (with a nice paw-print design), which is easy to clean if he has a whoopsie. There’s a ton of pockets for muzzles and Band-Aids, plus zippered portholes for it to stick its face out. It includes a folding water dish.

Buy from: Timbuk2

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November 20, 2015 2:02 pm PDT Buster Hein

Square Water bottle

The Square Water Bottle is an excellent traveling companion and will save you tons of money on bottled water. The handle is awesome and the bottle is easily cleaned and rinsed from both ends. At $49.95 it’s a bit on the pricey side but you’ll want to keep it forever.

Buy from: Amazon

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November 20, 2015 10:47 am PDT Buster Hein

Seflie stick/Tripod

If you have to get a selfie stick, you should get one that’s as least embarrassing as possible.
The iKlip Grip is a great selfie stick, for sure, but it packs loads of extra functionality into a seriously useful package, letting it serve as a tripod and remote shutter button as well. The mount is based on IK Multimedia’s iPhone holder for musicians, the iKlip Xpand Mini, so the Grip is a solid, safe way to hold your iPhone when it’s not in your hand.

Priced at $59.99, the iKlip Grip features a three-legged tripod that folds up into the selfie stick’s handle; it’s a brilliant bit of engineering, letting you use the Grip either in hand or on a flat surface. And if you need to get away from the tripod-mounted iPhone for a big group picture, the iKlip Grip comes with a remote key fob that will let you click the shutter from a distance.

Buy from: IK Multimedia

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November 20, 2015 10:34 am PDT Buster Hein

UE Megaboom Speaker

If you think the UE Boom is fantastic, you’ll double over with delight at the newer, bigger version of the best portable Bluetooth speaker we’ve ever used. This thing is seriously loud with deep bass, sparkling highs and clear mids that will faithfully reproduce pretty much any music you throw at it.

It’s also seriously rugged, with a strong, rubberized top and bottom and a tough outer mesh cloth shell. Just toss it in a bag and go. Hell, this bad boy is waterproof to the point of still working after a full-on shower or dip in the pool, and at $300, it’s worth every penny.

Buy: Amazon

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November 20, 2015 10:29 am PDT Buster Hein

Marc Pro

The Marc Pro ($649.95) is the perfect little box for the exercise junky in your life. The box hooks up to electrodes that you stick on your quads, calves, back or any muscle group in need of some active recovery. Then you dial in the amount of impulse you are comfortable with and, over a 30-to-60-minute period, the little box gets those muscles contracting and relaxing.

The idea is that you will move more oxygen through your wasted muscles during these “non-fatiguing” contractions, thus purging all the gunk you built up in there. The Marc Pro website can give you loads of science behind this but, unlike compression wear, this technology appears to deliver more than just a placebo effect.

Buy from: Amazon

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November 20, 2015 10:19 am PDT Buster Hein

Spool Dock by Quell & Company

Even if iPhone docks have never really been your thing, the Spool Dock begs to be appreciated. Quell & Company dock is “crafted in the U.S.A. from sustainable North American white oak, merino wool felt and a weighty metal base,” and it’s quite the looker. From a design perspective, it’s also pretty smart.

the $65 Spool Dock, which comes in white and black metal. Its base swivels, letting you roll out the cable as much as you desire. It also lets you turn your docked device 360 degrees. Setting it up is super-simple, with removable support bars for the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5, 5s, 5c, iPad mini and 5th-gen iPod touch. Most normal cases will work just fine too, as long as they’re not bulky like an Otterbox. — Alex Heath

Buy: Quell & Company

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November 20, 2015 9:59 am PDT Buster Hein

Bison Rogue Wallet

The aptly named Bison Rogue Wallet has that effect on the beholder. It’s a leather wallet made in Maine by some guys who went into the billfold business after they gave up trying to find the perfect front-pocket wallet.

Such things are especially smart for guys living in crowded cities, and this one is designed to follow the shape and cut of the inner pocket. Rogue even protects your debit and credit cards from digital pickpockets with a special liner to prevent RFID skimming.

Buy from: Rogue Industries, Amazon

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November 20, 2015 9:51 am PDT Buster Hein

Steelcase Gesture office chair

Plopping down on the Gesture chair by Steelcase (starts at $974, with options) saved our editor Lewis Wallace’s ass this year. Now that he switched the gesture chair he feels much more comfortable after a long day of at the desk, but the Gesture goes beyond that: It’s designed to accommodate a variety of sitting positions, from straight-up typing to kicked-back tapping on an iPad or smartphone. A four-position selector lets you dial in your level of lean; an easy-turn knob lets you adjust the seat depth while a simple lever allows height adjustments.

The truly novel part is the “limb interface” adjustments: The chair’s grippy rubberized arms adjust effortlessly up, down, in and out so you can position them right where your arms want to be at any given moment. When it comes to looks, it’s stylish enough for any modern office. The comfy gray fabric covering the seat and back reminds me of a subtle flannel suit, but Steelcase offers the Gesture in a wide variety of less-staid colors (and leather, too).

Buy from: Amazon

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November 20, 2015 9:44 am PDT Buster Hein

Harman Kardon Soho Wireless headphones

The $250 Soho Wireless headphones are comfortable to wear, as long as you aren’t overly active. The sound quality is good in the mids and treble, but lacking slightly in bass response. And the Bluetooth is great, when it works. But using numerous devices is mildly frustrating at best and downright annoying at worst. The touch sensors on the side of the cans is a great added feature, but can’t be relied on to work consistently, as I found myself trying to pause my music with a tap over and over and over again.

Oddly, I still find myself recommending these to friends as a pleasant alternative to traveling with earbuds, but with the caveat being you have to be prepared for the limitations of the Bluetooth connection.

Buy from: Amazon

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